We’ve been doing quite a bit of research on HTML5 lately, especially when it comes to quantifying its impact on mobile app development. I’ve personally grown slightly concerned by the width of generalizations that you tend to see in the discourse over this subject. There are a lot of predictions (many of them, admittedly, very insightful) flying around, but with preciously few numbers backing them up. For that reason, we have as part of our Mobile Application Enabling Technologies service conducted forecasts that include tons of data on how we estimate the 25 most important HTML5 features to be adopted in the coming years. Naturally, we’ve got also forecasts on the installed base of HTML5-capable mobile devices.
On top of that, there’s also a new study that among other things includes an assessment of how feasibly apps from different categories could be built by using the web code. To do this, we reviewed close to 600 individual iOS apps one by one and rated their “HTML5 feasibility” on a four-point scale. With a score of 1 implying a “negligible” feasibility and 4 implying a “strong feasibility”, the mean score for all sampled apps was 2.6 – but there’s obviously a large degree of variance between the categories.
But I digress. Instead of being diverted to a thinly veiled marketing pitch, I actually wanted to talk about browsers. My expectations of the mobile web probably count as (for the lack of a better word) mildly bullish, and that is mainly because I’m also expecting a lot of innovation out of the mobile browsers. HTML5 will be factoring into developer strategies certainly also in the form of hybrid apps, which are distributed via native storefronts, but in the actual open web it’s namely the browsers that either unleash or smother its potential.
Given Android’s share of the device market, Google is understandably a key player here. The regular Android browser did a remarkably poor job as an enabler of HTML5 features, but with hindsight I’d assume that this was down to the behind-the-scene work Google was doing on Chrome. And now that Chrome has been successfully migrated to the mobile environment, it really does beat the latest Android built-in browsers hands down. If you haven’t tried them for yourself, you can get a good idea of the progress from the always-interesting HTML5 Test site.
And then there’s always the current frontrunner, Dolphin, which in August became the first browser to pass the Ring 1 on Facebook’s Ringmark test. It’s also the first mobile browser to try its luck with two nascent but long-term crucial APIs: camera access, and push notifications. I don’t expect developers, let alone mobile web users, jumping to adopt such features en masse before they become more widely enabled (i.e. enabled by native browsers), but it’s with moves like this how we’ll get the ball rolling.